Podcast 112: Daily habits

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This is Podcast 112 and it’s about habit development. I recently started coaching through an app called Coach.me. Their approach is to focus on creating small daily habits.

The daily part is key. If you can do your new, positive habit even just for a minute every day, that’s better than doing an hour once a week. Once you get momentum with doing whatever it is every day, you can progress to improving the quality or the time you spend.

It’s a big deal to form a new habit. Anything that crowbars you out of your rut takes energy to get started, to overcome that inertia. That’s why it’s totally fair to start your habit small. That minute you spend every day creates the initial push that will soon develop momentum, like rolling a boulder.

This is a great way to form a habit that you may be resisting because it seems too daunting. But anyone can do something for one minute a day. It’s important not to dwell on progress at this point. You’re just developing consistency.

Consistency is what makes habits so easy. They become automatic, meaning you don’t have to spend time and energy on them. You don’t have to feel motivated to do them. It’s as if you’ve off loaded some work onto a robot that does it for you, freeing up your attention for more important things. Consistency is the foundation you need before you can add to your habit.

I’ve talked before about setting up your environment to support your new habit. Common examples are to lay out your exercise clothes the night before so you are ready to hit the treadmill in the morning, or stocking your fridge with healthy food if you’re trying to lose weight.

I’m a big believer in positive motivation. If I have to do something or must do something, I feel an internal tightening up, a resistance to it. Unfortunately, we often think of habits we want to develop as being ways to start doing things we don’t actually want to do, or stop doing things we like to do, like eat food.

The trick here is to structure your habit to entice you, make it something you actively want to do. I recently developed the habit of meditating every morning. I use a timer that includes gong sounds at the beginning and end. I love the sound of them. They feel calming and centering to me and that makes me look forward to sitting down to meditate.

If you want to get better with your to do list, you could write it with a special pen that makes you happy. You could use a special pad. If you use an app, you can often change the colors on the screen and move things around to suit you. Do what you can to make it yours and make it appealing.

Back in podcast 82 I talked about piggybacking your habits. That means pairing the new habit you want to create with one you already have. This could mean building a morning routine, or inserting one more thing into your routine. My meditation session occurs after I feed my cat, Lars. That sequence is important because for the most part it keeps Lars from running around and jumping on my lap while I meditate. My morning begins with opening the living room shade, feeding Lars and then sitting for my meditation.

Note that the paired habit doesn’t have to be related to what you want to add. I’ve also talked about finding interstices of time. I mentioned that in podcast 33. Interstices are gaps between events, places where you transition from one activity to another.

One of them is coming home from work. You probably have a little routine already. Put down your bag and keys, hang up your coat or jacket, take off your shoes and put on slippers. After that maybe you go to the kitchen to figure out dinner, or look at the newspaper or chat with your family.

The interstice happens after the slippers. Before moving on to dinner prep or whatever it is, you have a small period of time that you can expand a bit to add a habit. It could be going to the bedroom to put away clothes and make the bed, as I suggest in my book, Five Minutes to a Relaxing Bedroom. It could be taking ten minutes to review your day at work and jot some notes or even make a to do list for tomorrow.

You could also push it further back and have your gap be between leaving work and arriving home. Start thinking of this time as expandable, a place where you can fit errands on the way home. In this example, the habit is not so much shopping, but regularly asking yourself if there’s an errand you can do before you get home. This is a great way to avoid the honey, you forgot the milk again! Scenario.

Those are six tips to help you make some good habits: do it daily, start small, set up your environment, make it pleasing, pair it with an existing habit, and finding time gaps. Mix and match. Try them all! January is over, but it’s never too late to improve your life for the better.

What you can do now: it’s easiest to begin with the first two: a small habit that you commit to doing every day. Let yourself just do that for as long as it takes to become consistent.